We’ve visited Rune once before, but in podcast form. If you haven’t yet heard the podcast introduction to this winery, know that it is a winery unlike any other (and listen to it right after you’ve finished reading this review). There is no tasting room for Rune; instead, tastings are held under a canopy (weather permitting) on the windswept high desert prairie of Sonoita. To find the Tasting Canopy, look between mile markers 39 and 40 on the south side of HWY 82, at the crest of the hill, and seek out the Rune flags fluttering in the winds, and the Airstream trailer gleaming in the sun. It is well worth the short walk from the road to attend to the wines under the canopy, which are a splendid taste of Willcox’s high desert terroir.
James Callahan believes that every grape, every wine, and every bottle tells a story, and he feels it’s important for their stories to be told. (Incidentally, this is why all of his labels are designed the way they are–the hope is that each new vintage will tell a part of the story–and other stories and labels are intertwined. More on that later.)
Without further ado, the first wine we will be examining from Rune will be the 2013 Grenache.
The 2013 Grenache from Rune amidst the ruins of Old Jerome.
The Wine: The 2013 Grenache comes from Pillsbury Vineyard in Cochise County. Aged in neutral Oak, this is one of Callahan’s wines that are not using native yeasts–those are his whites and his Cote-rotie style Syrahs, which we will explore at a future time. This wine had a fun story: destemmed at Callighan’s, the wine fermented at Hops and Vines, aged in barrel at Lightning Ridge, and was finally finished up at the Pillsbury facility where future vintages of Rune are being made–and there are plans to build a crush facility on site in Sonoita in the future. This vintage was aged for 15 months on neutral French oak. At 13.9 percent, this Grenache is a pretty big one for Arizona, and it’s also among the darkest I’ve seen, colorwise. It’s still light when compared to French grenache, of course.
The Nose: When first opened, this wine is incredibly spicy on the nose–almost reminiscent of a spiced chai with aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cardamom and sandalwood. These notes intermingle with rich mulberry, raspberry, and slight hints of strawberry. After being opened for a while, the 2013 Rune Grenache gains notes of plum and cloves. It’s one of the spiciest versions of this varietal I’ve encountered in Arizona. It reminds me more of the brooding spices you get on the nose of Spanish versions of this grape.
The Palate: The palate of this wine is also a bit of a spice bomb. Allspice, cinnamon, paprika, and black pepper, intermingle with notes of almonds, vanilla, huckleberry, and mulberry. As the wine opens up, a note akin to biting fresh plums right off the tree also comes into play. The spice, fruit, and the acidity of this wine play together quite nicely to create a medium-bodied red that is quite food-friendly. The wine has a 30-second finish, and a slight amount of tannins that lead me to think this wine could age fairly well.
Pairing: My first thought was, oddly, to pair this wine with thai food. It’s an unorthodox pairing for Grenache, but I think it would do well. Barring that, a nice, juicy cheeseburger (or veggieburger) off the grill would be a supreme pairing for this wine.
Impressions: I’ve honestly been largely on the fence when it comes to Grenache in Arizona for the most part. I’ve seen it as great for use in the fantastic rosé we produce here, but for darker reds, I was ambivalent. However, this wine has changed my opinion, and I think it could definitely be a contender when handled right. James Callahan himself sees this grape as the Pinot Noir of the Desert, and I’m beginning to see why. You can drink this now, but I do feel like it will be even better after aging for a few more years.
This wine, when personified, is actually not too far off the image on the label, though in my mind, he’s a Conquistador leading his troops through a mountain pass, versus on a ship, but… really, a good personification.
As you’ll see in the image below, the story of this wine, as told by the labels, is intertwined with that of the Chardonnay from Rune Winery, which will not be reviewed here since it was made with California Fruit…but still delicious.
Pirate Armada versus Spanish Treasure Fleet. Who will win? Stay tuned for the next vintages!